Meet the Head Inmate that runs the Asylum at Columbus’ ScareAtorium!

The Scareatorium - Columbus

We interview legendary haunt industry icon, Kelly Collins, founder of The ScareAtorium, creator of the 3-Minute Escape Room and Coordinator of the Midwest Haunters Convention Haunted House Bus Tour!

Kelly Collins Scareatorium

Very few haunters in the scare business today can claim to have been around since the beginning of the modern phenomenon of professional haunted attractions, but Kelly Collins is one of them. Collins has been involved in at least some aspect of the Halloween industry since 1980.

Born and raised in Worthington, OH, Collins’ first memory of being fascinated by the primal emotion of fear was his reaction to the Wicked Witch of the West’s army of flying monkeys in “The Wizard of Oz.” Forced to grow up fast, Collins became “the man of the house” when his father passed away at the age of fourteen.

“My next door neighbor was a member of the local church,” says Collins, “and through them I got involved with the church camp at Autumn Lakes.” When Collins was old enough, he joined the Coast Guard and served in the military for four years during the Vietnam War. When the war ended, he moved back home to Columbus and got back involved with the church camp where he came up with a hayride style activity that involved taking a group of kids for a ride back into the woods for a storytelling expedition.

“We would take the kids for a ride back to this huge, spooky looking oak tree,” recalls Collins, “where one day I had this idea to ask a small group of kids to hide behind the tree and jump out and scare the other kids when we got there. It worked almost too well. At least one of the kids was nearly frightened to tears, but the kids started telling their friends about the experience and word about it sort of took off.”

Scareatorium

Soon there were two different versions of the ride: One took place at noon and was called the “Skoopy Camp Ride” and the other took place after dark at 9 PM and was known as the “Spooky Hayride.”

“On the way to the oak tree, we would tell the kids a story about a character named Captain Autumn and when we reached our destination there would be a coffin and a guy with a shotgun who would come running out.” During this time, the local Jaycees lost their charity haunted house and asked Collins to team up with them to create a more elaborate version of the Autumn Lakes Spooky Hayride.

Due to the success of their hayride, Collins and his wife Neena Collins were contacted by the Columbus Clippers, a minor league baseball team in Columbus, OH, to consult with them about a haunted attraction to take place in the league’s Cooper Stadium. This led to a successful 13 year run in both consulting with Halloween events for Six Flags Entertainment and managing Terror Park for the Clippers until the team planned to move to the brand new Huntington Park Stadium.

“They wanted to take a couple of years break from the haunt,” relates Collins, “but we had built up so much momentum and a huge staff of returning actors that we didn’t want to lose what we spent years building up. So Neena and I decided it was time to open our own haunt.”

The now legendary ScareAtorium opened for a brief stint in Dublin, OH with an original attraction called Frightmore Manor in 2012 before relocating to its’ permanent home in Northland in 2013 where it debuted its’ two infamous attractions, The Northland Asylum and RIP’s 3D Funhouse.

Midwest Haunt Tour

According to local legend, The Northland Asylum is built upon the same land where a notorious insane asylum operated from 1899 to 1956.  Northland lore tells of a Dr. Robert Collins who is accused of conducting cruel experiments upon the inmates. RIP’s 3D Funhouse contains 25 scenes of optical illusions and carnival Freak Show madness that’s meant to be part fun/part scary. Collins claims that many jaded, longtime haunters who have come through his funhouse have expressed amazement at what they’ve seen inside.

“They’ll stop at the exit and shake my hand,” he relates, “and tell me it’s the best 3D funhouse they’ve ever seen.”

Collins has also been recognized in the haunted attraction industry for inventing the concept of the 3-Minute Escape Room. While the trend of traditional one hour long Escape Rooms had already caught fire across the country, it was Collins who came up with the idea of building multiple, one room, three minute puzzles to serve as add-on attractions to his centerpiece haunt.

In addition to running The ScareAtorium, Collins also organizes the Midwest Haunters Convention Haunted House Bus Tour which is actually coming through the Louisville area this summer on June 7. The Midwest Haunters Convention in Columbus, Ohio is the country’s largest Halloween convention that’s actually open to the public. Taking place the weekend of June 9 – 11, MHC welcomes pro haunters, home haunters, actors and all Halloween enthusiasts.

Collins’ pre-show bus tour allows haunt owners and fanatics the chance to visit some of the best attractions in the country during the off-season, and this year Louisville is the premiere stop on the tour. On Wednesday, June 7, the tour will be visiting Waverly Hills Sanatorium, The Haunted Hotel, The Devil’s Attic, The 7th Street Haunt and Grim Trails Haunted Attraction.

Only a three and a half hour drive from Louisville’s city limits, The ScareAtorium is a MUST SEE regional Halloween destination.

The Phantom of The Ville

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